HC Deb 07 February 1989 vol 146 cc785-6
3. Mr. Fatchett

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from (i) German citizens and (ii) the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany seeking a reduction of low flying in Germany.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Michael Neubert)

My right hon. Friend has not received any such representations from citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, but last week he had discussions with his German colleague, Dr. Scholz, about a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including ways in which it might be possible to ease the impact of low-flying training on German citizens.

Mr. Fatchett

I am glad that the Minister is now giving some information about last week's meeting because the Ministry of Defence press release made no reference to German representations about low-flying aircraft. Are we to understand from the Minister's answer that there will now be a reduction in the number of low flights over West Germany? If that is the case, will there be a subsequent increase in the number of such flights over the United Kingdom? If so, may I advise the Minister that that would be totally unacceptable to the people of this country?

Mr. Neubert

None of those assumptions is correct. The hon. Gentleman might have helped himself by studying the transcript of the press conference given by my right hon. Friend and the German Defence Minister.

Mr. Mans

Does my hon. Friend agree that the low flying carried out in West Germany and in this country is an integral part of our defence posture in terms of deterrence? Does he also agree that the amount of low flying carried out in this country is roughly the same as that carried out in West Germany and that the vast majority of the German population understand the need for it and would support its continuance at the present level?

Mr. Neubert

My hon. Friend is correct. Low-level flying is a military requirement and there is an essential minimum of flying training that must be carried out over West European terrain. There is substantial public support for that training because it is considered a crucial part of our operating capability.

Mr. Molyneaux

Does the Minister not feel that the German people, of all people, would understand the vital necessity of low flying training, bearing in mind that if Goering's Luftwaffe air fleet had crossed the Channel in 1940 at wave top height the outcome of the battle of Britain might have been very different?

Mr. Neubert

We can all learn from history and I am sure that the West German public will not be slow to take that lesson.